The following are our favorite things to serve with soup, from chewy Brazilian cheese bread to umami-packed grilled cheese sandwiches.
It is almost physically impossible for me to eat a bowl of tomato soup without a grilled cheese sandwich, but I’m not a purist—I like to play around with inclusions. Spicy, garlicky kimchi ups the umami quotient of the classic grilled cheese. The pairing of cheese and kimchi actually isn’t new. Budae jjigae, otherwise known as army base stew, dates back to the Korean War. It’s a hot pot made with American surplus foods, such as hot dogs, baked beans and instant noodles, along with kimchi and American cheese. Our grilled cheese version is less elaborate, but satisfying, and indisputably tasty when dipped into soup.
While we’re on the topic of grilled cheese sandwiches, this is the bread you should use when making them. Japanese milk bread is what Wonder Bread promised to be—fluffy and chewy, perfect for sandwiches or simple buttered toast. It stays moister and softer longer than standard sandwich bread thanks to the Asian technique of mixing tangzhong into the dough. Tangzhong is a mixture of flour and liquid cooked to a gel. The gelatinized starch in tangzhong can hold onto more water than uncooked flour, thereby offering several benefits. The dough is easy to handle despite the high hydration level, the loaf attains a high rise and a light, airy crumb, and the baked loaves keep for several days.
These crisp yet pleasantly chewy, cracker-thin flatbreads are known as nuvola or “cloud” bread, a nod to their airy texture and puffy shape. In a happy accident, Angelo Arrigoni—owner of a century-old bakery near the Vatican—discovered that slightly over-hydrated pizza dough cooked up into balloon-like rounds. Once cooled, you can crack them open and fill them with greens, taking your “soup and salad” lunch to a whole new level. Some bakery patrons slice off a “wedge,” yielding a portion of bread with salad inside; others simply tear the bread by hand and use it to scoop up salad, but you could just as easily use them to mop up the last bits of soup from your bowl.
This is the bread I crave alongside a bowl of spicy lentil stew. We make our pita with whole-wheat flour and whole-milk yogurt for full flavor and a pleasant chew. Yogurt isn’t commonly used when making pita, but we found it helped produce a soft, elastic dough and a tender, but slightly chewy baked bread. To ensure the breads puff nicely and form pockets, they're baked two at a time on a heated baking steel or stone.
We tried katmer, a flaky, unleavened flatbread sometimes sweetened with sugar, tahini and/or nuts, during a recent trip to Türkiye. The bread’s thin profile, tender texture and golden-brown spots were reminiscent of lavash, with buttery-rich layers that give it a light, flaky texture, making it perfect for dipping into bowls of creamy soup. Flour, butter, olive oil and salt along with a simple rolling and folding method are all you need to make these flatbreads. You can make the dough day-of or refrigerate it overnight and toss it into the skillet for a weeknight treat.
Though traditionally served for breakfast, harcha would be right at home next to a hearty vegetable soup or bowl of chili. They’ve been described by Christopher Kimball as a “particularly delicate variety of cornbread married to an English muffin.” Our version is as easy to make as a biscuit, and Chris writes it “tastes like a world where sunrise has gently washed across the rooftops for a thousand years.” Best served straight off the skillet, with a swipe of salted butter.
Brazilian cheese bread (pão de queijo), can be enjoyed as a breakfast snack with coffee, as bar snack or as sandwich bread, making the cheesy, chewy puffs versatile enough for dunking in a bowl of soup. (I think a cheesy potato soup would be quite nice.) Tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) gives them a unique chewiness, while a generous dose of cheese makes them particularly savory. In Brazil, the cheese of choice is queijo minas curado. Without that option available to us, we found that Asiago had just the right balance of salty-sharp flavor to make delicious puffs, but you can also make them with Gruyère or Stilton if you want to mix things up.
This quick, supple flatbread from northern Italy gets bubbly and charred from a screaming-hot cast iron skillet. It’s typically stuffed with fillings (like the classic combo of Parma ham, soft cow’s milk cheese, and arugula), and enjoyed sort of as a pizza sandwich, perfect for pairing with an Italian zuppa. Lard may not be common in American kitchens outside the South, but it’s cheap and easy to find. And according to Chris Kimball, it “made the piadine tender, with just the right chew and a rich background flavor.” Vegetable shortening will work in a pinch, but your piadine won’t be as flavorful.
The inspiration for this cornbread came by way of Bolivian street vendors selling humintas—savory-sweet corn cake treats, made with fresh corn kernels, filled with cheese, and sealed in husks. They have a remarkably moist, dense crumb and a savory-sweet flavor. It's not unlike a large, spiced tamale (anise and cinnamon are common) enriched with cheese. We adapted a more home cook-friendly version (baking dish rather than husks), resulting in one of our favorite cornbreads of all time.
Incredibly delicious and plush, these flatbreads from chef Marianna Leivaditaki make smart use of a short ingredient list—yogurt and olive oil for rich flavor, along with yeast for a soft crumb that soaks up soup like a sponge. Brush the still-hot crust with za’atar-infused oil for extra earthy herbaceousness. These flatbreads are best hot out of the pan, but they keep at room temp for up to three days. To rewarm, wrap the breads in foil and pop them into a 350°F oven for a few minutes.
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